Video Game Reviews

Here's where I keep track of video games I have played. I rate the games on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being "highly recommended" and 1 being "forget this game and go read a book or something."

Half Life: Opposing Force on PC (7/10)

Half Life: Opposing Force

Opposing Force is a welcome improvement over Blue Shift. First off, it's feels like a full game rather than just a bunch of new levels. It's nowhere near as developed as a modern shooter, but there's a little bit of a story to follow. Half Life was much lauded for its story, but, in hindsight, there really wasn't much there. Opposing Force doesn't even have that minimal level of depth, but there's enough there to push you towards your goal which, as always, is to get the hell out of Black Mesa.

Half Life: Blue Shift on PC (6/10)

Blue Shift Screen

I am finally getting around to playing the Half-Life 1 expansion games. As expected, this is more of the same. This time around playing as a security officer who is caught up in the Black Mesa incident. Once again, you are trying to get back to the surface. There aren't any new game play mechanics (that I can see), and aside from a couple of references to Freeman, the story here doesn't really tie into the main narrative.

Guacamelee! on PC (8/10)

Guacamelee! Screen shot.

This is what the kids call a metroidvania-style platformer (what a horrible term). You run around around a large, open-world and gain access to new areas as you upgrade to new powers. I tried to play Super Metroid on the Wii, but I don't think I had the patience for that older game. Guacamelee! on the other hand was very accessible. The movement is fast and fluid with easy fighting mechanics.

Defense Grid 2 on PC (7/10)

Defense Grid 2

The Defense Grid sequel seems more like an expansion than a new game. There are new powers and customizations, but core game remains the same; build towers and watch them mow down a seemingly endless stream of baddies. In fact, with the new upgrades, I think this may be easier than the original. I suppose the challenge really is in the alternate game modes where you a limited to certain spots or specific towers. Given the choice, I think I prefer the first game and its simple character-study story. This one tries to up the narrative ante by adding several voiced characters, but it just gets confusing and incoherent. The game still works as a casual strategy game that can be played in small doses.

Tales from the Borderlands on PC (10/10)

Tale from the Borderlands

Like previous Telltale series, this is not so much a game as it is an interactive cartoon. Yes, to a degree, player choices don't matter, and all paths seem to lead to the same destination (as far as I can tell). However, there is far more variation and consequence than most point and click adventures offer. In hindsight, adventure puzzles, as fun as they sometimes are, only hinder storytelling and don't help you live inside a character's head the way the Telltale dialogue system does.

The Wolf Among Us on PC (9/10)

The Wolf Among Us

After The Walking Dead (especially season two... which I apparently forgot to review. Well, it was great.), I was pretty much sold on the Telltale choose-your-own-adventure game formula. These games are really like watching a TV show in which you're forced to pay close attention to what's going on and have a say in how the characters interact with eachother. So far, the stories and characters have been engaging and satisfying.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on PC (8/10)

GTA: San Andreas

Coming off of FarCry 3, I really wasn't sure I wanted to commit myself to another massive open-world game, but San Andreas was there in my bin of unplayed games calling to me. The GTA formula, like war, never changes: huge open world, lots of driving, violent gangster themes and general mayhem. I really wish the stories were more compelling, but they tend to get lost in the huge scope of the game. Personally, I have no nostalgia or interest in Southern California gangsta culture and music. In light of the never-ending murder in Chicago, it's a hard sub-culture to glamorize without feeling icky. I was able to set that aside and just enjoy exploring the map and all it's diversity.

Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien on PC (8/10)

Bit-Trip Runner 2

Although I haven't written about them here, I have played through much of the first series of Bit.Trip games on the Wii. Most of those games could be classified as rhythm games with an Atari 2600 aesthetic. Beat and Runner were the stand-outs of the original six games. The former is a frantic pong-a-like and the latter is a platformer distilled to its most basic mechanics.

A Golden Wake on PC (6/10)

A golden Wake... don't be deceived by this screenshot. There is no dancing in this game.

Although I'd give them props for creating a game with a truly unique theme, this Wadjet Eye adventure falls a bit flat. The game is set during the 1920's land boom of southern Florida and focuses on the player-character, Alfie Banks. Essentially it's a character study, but, unfortunately, interactive storytelling doesn't lend itself to well so such narratives. Games excel at mood and environment but creating riveting characters just doesn't seem to fit the medium all that well. Without a strong narrative plot focus (i.e. save the princess or defeat the evil villain) it's hard to justify the extra time spent clicking options and parsing dialog trees to get to the same point that a short paragraph of exposition would.

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